I have drunk excessive amounts of
Diet Coke since I discovered how much I liked it during my final years at
university. For a while before that, it was Lucozade- so I’ve always soothed
myself with the fact that my fizzy drink addiction could be much worse. As well
as tasting nice and being refreshing, I also associate Diet Coke with being
comforting- an ice-cold glass of it, to me, is like being enveloped in a hug.
In 2005, I started to develop
chronic anxiety and panic attacks to such a level that it greatly impacted my
life and my ability to function on a day-to-day basis. With a combination of
psychiatrists, psychologists and medication, it has become a lot better, but
it’s still something that I suffer with daily.
I also get regular migraines and
am on nightly muscle-relaxant medication for Fibromyalgia leg pains that
prevent me from sleeping. I also suffer from extreme tiredness, and my daily
two-hour afternoon sleeps have been getting increasing out of control. Add to
this being overweight and having stained teeth from the tannins (a naturally
occurring compound scientifically called polyphenols) in Diet Coke, and you’ll
see that my life isn’t a barrel of laughs. How much of this could be down to my
excessive Diet Coke consumption however? Is the fact that no water passes my
lips that isn’t brown, fizzy, full of caffeine and artificially-sweetened a
contributing factor to my daily physical and mental struggles?
My first stop was to talk to a
dietician about what these drinks can do to the body. Glasgow dietitian LesleyReid talked me through what doctors and scientists have discovered. She told me
that although the recommended safe caffeine intake is reported to be around 400
mg daily (which equates to 10 cans of juice, 4 brewed coffees or 2 energy
shots), this level is often too high for many as it depends on your health,
weight, BMI and if you are taking certain medications as to how much you can
tolerate. She herself can only have 1-2 cups of coffee or cans of caffeinated
fizzy juice before she can feel her heart rate
increase, and her stomach churn from anxiousness. Caffeine has also been proven
to cause insomnia, nervousness, restless limbs, headaches and muscle
tremors. Sound like me to anyone?
Lesley also explained to me that Diet
Coke offers no nutritional value and has no benefit to the body. It is, in
fact, just a drink that is full of chemicals, sweeteners and flavourings. It
has also been shown in studies that even although Diet Coke is a ‘diet’ drink,
it can still contribute to weight gain. Lesley says that some artificial sweeteners
can still trigger the body to produce insulin. Insulin is a hormone
that’s produced by the pancreas normally as a result of raised bloods sugars.
Its job is to store more energy, i.e. body fat, which could resulting in
increased weight gain. Even although you aren’t actually consuming real sugar,
some parts of your body can treat it as such. She also explains that drinking
artificially-sweetened diet juices can cause you to crave sugary foods. I can
relate to all of this, but could the vast amount of Diet Coke I drink really
contribute to my medical issues? Even my doctors and psychiatrists don’t think
it’s out of the question.
Two weeks ago, I went cold-turkey
and began a Diet Coke and artificially-sweetened caffeinated drink detox to
find out. I swapped them for water and started a diary- writing about how I was
feeling mentally and physically, and also how my skin looked due to the
increase in my water intake. The first three days were very hard- I suffered
from crippling headaches as a result of caffeine withdrawal. Scientifically,
caffeine narrows the blood vessels around the brain. When you stop drinking it,
they enlarge again, causing headaches. Interestingly, I didn’t actually crave
Diet Coke- I craved sugar (and had to satisfy this itch on a few occasions) but
not my favourite drink specifically. Reading and doing some adult colouring
really helped to distract my mind.
At the end of the first week of
swapping two litres of Diet Coke for two litres of water, I was noticing real
improvements in my mind and body. I was no longer extremely tired during the
day and enjoyed productive working afternoons at my desk, instead of sleeping
under the duvet in bed. Although many people reach for caffeine to make them feel
more awake, you can build up a tolerance to it and caffeine highs can also be
followed by a crash in energy and alertness.
My skin was also looking plumper,
brighter and healthier from drinking more water and consuming less caffeine.
I’d had dry skin for quite a while, but makeup was now sitting a lot more
evenly on my skin. The tannins in Diet Coke are dehydrating, and caffeine is
also known to be a diuretic. Come to think of it, I was going to the toilet a
lot less too.
During the second week, these benefits
continued and I was no longer craving sugar every hour like I have done for as
long as I can remember. Over time, this will definitely help my weight loss
efforts. However, despite these changes, my anxiety and panic attacks were
still as prevalent as always, and there was no improvement in the pains in my
legs. I have an anxiety disorder and Fibromyalgia and I’m just going to have to
get on with it.
Now that the detox period has
finished, I love that I don’t need to sleep in the afternoon anymore- it has
increased my work productivity ten-fold. My thrice weekly headaches and
migraines have been replaced by a once-weekly irritating tension headache (you
can’t have everything) and my skin looks a lot healthier and younger- confirmed
by my facialist, which made me feel very smug. My teeth are whiter, I don’t
feel as if I need to eat as many cakes, and I am able to sleep through the
night without needing to go to the toilet. All in all, I’m really pleased and I
will definitely never return to drinking that much Diet Coke again. I will
still have the occasional glass though- everything in moderation!
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